PLAINFIELD – After a pair of 21-6 losses to open the season, Plainfield South coach Ken Bublitz knew that things had to change on both sides of the ball.
Consider that box checked as South built a 16-0 lead at halftime while only yielding 24 total yards of offense Friday night en route to a 23-0 shutout of Plainfield East in the Southwest Prairie Conference opener for both.
South had 269 yards of offense, while the Cougars defense limited Plainfield East to 129 total yards.
“Our defense has been the backbone of our season so far,” South coach Ken Bublitz said. “Defensively, tonight our kids were tremendous. Great pursuit, our coaches had them well prepared, and for a vast majority of the game they dominated.”
Offensively, the Cougars were led by senior running backs Jake Maher (19 rushes, 105 yards, two touchdowns) and Danny Saracco (18 rushes, 82 yards, TD). Junior linebacker Nick Portz led the South defense and forced a fumble.
Jeremy Reitz led the Bengals with 11 rushes for 50 yards.
“We were flying around the ball at all times,” Portz said of his Cougars’ defense. “We came in here 0-2, and we did not want to let our offense our seniors down.”
After their first two possessions on offense did not produce results, South (1-2, 1-0) took advantage of great field position in East territory. Maher’s 38-yard run capped a four-play, 49-yard drive that gave the Cougars a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
“We spent a lot of time over the last two weeks refining our fundamentals up front to try and find a combination of guys that work together well,” Bublitz said. “Our guys up front took that as a challenge this week, and our backs did a great job at finding the holes and gaps and just moved forward.”
For East (0-3, 0-1), its next offensive possession was forgetful.
After a dropped pass and two rushes for negative yards, the Bengals had to take a safety when the ball was snapped over the punter’s head, which extended South’s lead to 9-0 with 11:14 remaining until halftime.
South then capitalized on good field position at midfield with less than three minutes left before the half and put together an eight-play drive capped by Saracco’s four-yard TD run that made it 16-0.
“I texted coach telling him earlier the week that I wanted the ball,” Saracco said. “I will continue to run hard and tackle hard and do everything that I can to keep pushing.”
East had early success on its first offensive drive of the second half, but Portz forced Bengals wideout Valentino Rivera to fumble after a catch, and South capitalized. Maher scored on a 13-yard run with 4:12 left in the third quarter to extend the lead to 23-0 that effectively put the game out of reach.
“We have plenty to clean up moving forward,” Bublitz said. “Our kicking game, lots of penalties, we just have to continue to put ourselves in a position to succeed. Plainfield North is a great football team. We are going to have to play extremely well next week to have a chance against them. We are going to celebrate this tonight and get back to work tomorrow.”
“We have gone away from doing some of the little things correctly, and it is also about us learning how to practice to win and play to win,” East coach Mike Romeli said.
South defeated East, 24-14, in the sophomore game.